Walmart vs Cracker Barrel parking lots: a battle of wits, courage, & strength

Okay I do have to admit I used the tagline “a battle of wits, courage, & strength” for a middle school science fair project in I think 6th or 7th grade? And ever since then it’s stuck in my mind – so even though it’s not entirely relevant, here it is…. Oh & for that science project (since I’m sure you’re curious), we built an obstacle course for Tracy’s hamster & Lizz’s ferret. (hi Tracy & Lizz!!) I don’t remember the outcome of the “race” but I DO remember that I lost a $5 bet during this project over if “hamster” was spelled with a “p” or not.

I can’t help but imagine that said science project launched both Tracy & Lizz into wildly successful STEM career paths; and meanwhile I’m living in a van…

Okay enough about my middle school experience… (That’s covered in my aforementioned Xanga, not this blog.) We’re here to talk about my thoughts on Walmart & Cracker Barrel parking lots!

Note: the opinions expressed in this piece are my own & do not necessarily reflect those of the #vanlife community. (Though I do know my hero, educator, & fellow vanlifer @laura.edmondson also enjoys WM parking lots & that brings me joy.)

Though I was trying to avoid it “just because” – I finally spent the night in a Walmart parking lot & just 2 nights after – my first Cracker Barrel parking lot of the trip. And honestly – I’m not mad about it. They don’t make for great #vanlife #influencer pics, but gosh they’re both convenient & I feel safe. (And safety comes first despite everyone yelling “safety 3rd” before hucking it off cliffs while skiing….)

Anyway! Both WM & CB are well lit, have cell service, always have other vanlifers/RVs parked there too which makes me feel safer, & since parking is explicitly allowed (unlike on your local neighborhood street, where it’s not technically posted that I can’t camp overnight…) I’m not nervous about someone knocking on my door asking me to leave. 

Even though Cracker Barrel has weird racist vibes (Google it!), they also have clearly designated parking spots for RVs & vans. AND their parking lot is smaller & a bit more manageable (read: cozy) than Walmart. Walmarts parking lots just have so much SPACE which honestly feels impersonal. Do they even want me here?! (Probably not…) Plus is it just me, or is there always “sketchy” vibes around Walmarts? (Or maybe that’s the corporate greed manifesting itself 🙂 )

The perk of Walmart, however, lies in the bathrooms. Though they don’t have showers like established campgrounds would – their bathrooms DO have paper towels & I only feel slightly uncomfortable scrubbing the dirt from my ankles in there… (AND I barely even get weird looks when others walk in on me doing so.)

I guess we’re going to reference middle school a few times here… Remember those chain email jokes that you’d forward each other back in like 2004? For some reason in 6th grade math class we’d always read the “People of Walmart” ones. And gosh life comes atchya quick – I could probably be featured in a “People of Walmart” email chain these days…

So! Back to parking lots. This is about as scientific as my 6th grade science project in determining my winner between the two, but – I’m going to have to go with CB as my usual choice for parking lot. (Note: this MIGHT change if/when Walmarts return to being 24 hrs (i.e. BATHROOMS.))

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